I Want to Litigate

Ex-Bitter Columns, Lawyer 5 Comments

I am a 2L at a bottom T1/top T2 school.  We are the only law school within 100 miles but in a sizeable market.  I am ranked around the 35th percentile.  I am not on law review.  I am, however, the recipient of numerous awards for trial advocacy, have won several intra-school argument competitions and have an extensive pro-bono component to my resume.  I have spent more than a decade participating in speech and trial advocacy competitions either as a competitor or a coach.  I have a lot to learn, but I am more ready to do courtroom work than almost all law students.  I am not claiming to be Gerry Spence, but I have a skill set for jury trials from extensive practice and good teaching.

I want to litigate.  I am morally opposed to prosecuting.  Unfortunately, it seems like Big Law could give a damn about my skills, and mid-size and small Plaintiff’s/Criminal Defense firms do not hire law students for economic reasons.  Any suggestions on how I can convince employers that I have worthwhile skills that will serve them well once I’m an associate without coming across as some “self-styled trial lawyer” law school douchebag?

The problem is that big, prestigious firms don’t really care about trial advocacy skills.  They’re far more concerned with finding super-smart lawyers who are great writers, love to research and enjoy working weekends.  Really.  Even if you were Gerry Spence, cowboy jacket and all, you still wouldn’t get hired–because he wouldn’t get hired.  As a first year associate.  Thus, the top-tier firms are probably not terribly realistic (but not impossible) for you right now.  But the other 90% of big firms (and the bigger medium firms) seem within reach.

As for your prodigious oratory skills: Just list the competitions and awards you’ve won on your resume.  If the interviewer is interested, he or she will bring it up.  If not, don’t be afraid to find a way to deftly drop it into the conversation.  Your past success shows that you’re smart, competitive and good on your feet–three key traits for a young lawyer.  That doesn’t mean you’re a lock, of course, since most lawyers are academic snobs.  Grades and schools still matter more than moot court contests.

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  • Adam Shepard

    You could always go work for the public defender’s office and be poor for a few years.  It may not be the best financial move, but at least you’d be happy.  Otherwise, try and find a firm who will let you start arguing motions, etc. and allow you to participate in the trial preparation process and then use that experience to hook a better job in a couple of years.

  • Anonymous

    Work at the DA, make a name for yourself, then walk into a big firm as a partner after 10 years.  That will make the dopes who sweated at the firm for 10 years cringe.

  • Brett

    I’m curious why you’re morally opposed to being a prosecutor.  I was a prosecutor for many years and I didn’t find anything morally wrong about it.  We’re held to a higher standard than the PD’s (at least in my county); we HAVE to follow the rules or risk sever punishment by the ABA and our bosses.  What is it that you think prosecutors do?  Have you been watching too much Law & Order?

  • 2L Advocate

    In answer to #1, I cannot be a prosecutor because I am uncomfortable with making judgments about people which would deprive them of their freedom. 
    Prosecutors perform an honorable and necessary function.  But just as some attorneys are uncomfortable with the notion of getting a guilty client off, I am equally troubled by the idea of sending a potentially innocent person to prison. 
    That’s all, not a knock on prosecutors.

  • JNH

    You’re a 2L? Great! Get an internship with the Public Defender’s right now, while you don’t really need to make any money yet. Most states have a state law that allows law students to appear in court if they’re working for the government. Also, you could try going to the Attorney General’s Office and see if they have any litigation related positions that do not offend your conscience. Do that for your next year and once you’ve got a little experience you’ll have a better shot of being able to litigate for a living straight out of law school. And if Big Law still isn’t interested, you can always keep working for the public defender a couple more years.

    Another option is the military. It is really hard to get into the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in any branch of service these days, precisely because there are so many applicants wanting the great experience you’ll get from them. You’ll need to apply now while you’re still in school, and you’ll have to jump through many hoops and a lot of red tape, and you’ll have to run and do push-ups… but if you’re willing to do all that, AND if they like you and don’t catch you doing drugs, you’ll get to litigate. How badly do you want it?